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Graduate overcomes childhood challenges, takes leadership roles at ACU

Hermela Aregay, social work graduate originally from Eritrea, embodies resilience, perseverance and a passion for others.

Hermela and her family moved from the East African country of Eritrea to Dallas when she was eight years old, presenting the obstacles of learning a new culture. Along with this challenge, in her teenage years, she was diagnosed with cancer. After seeing multiple doctors and trying different treatments, hope seemed to be lost. But with countless prayers and her mother’s faith, she is now cancer-free. 

This triumph, however, came with a cost, as the toll on her body left her with physical challenges, including re-learning how to walk. Undeterred by the physical demands and through continued years of therapy, she has found joy in restoring the health of herself and others. 

Hermela came to ACU as a social work major, knowing what she wanted to accomplish and how she wanted to strengthen her walk with Christ and the community around her, and determined to fully engage in the college experience. She served as a leader in her sorority and other student organizations, including African Students Association, the Student Government Association and the Social Work Student Association, and also a member of Lynay, a service and leadership organization, which she says has been the most fulfilling.

“I have a deep passion for acts of service, and Lynay aligns perfectly with this passion by focusing on sharpening our skills as current and future community servant-leaders,” Hermela said. “Lynay has been instrumental in helping me build meaningful relationships and connect with individuals from diverse backgrounds.”

She has also been a servant in the greater Abilene area through her work with the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC seeks to improve the overall health, safety, education and economic well-being of those affected by conflict and disaster.

“Working closely with clients, I developed the ability to build deep, meaningful connections that go beyond surface-level interactions,” said Hermela. “This experience allowed me to see the world through different lenses. I am truly grateful for all that I learned and received during my time at IRC.” 

Now, as she prepares to graduate with a social work degree, Hermela is gearing up for another remarkable chapter in her life. She plans to move back to Dallas, where she will work in the social work field and pursue a master’s in social work beginning next summer. 

While the physical act of walking across the graduation stage this weekend is a victory in and of itself, she is most excited about what God has in store for her in the future.

“There is some anxiety as graduation approaches, [but], being just a few days away, I find peace that God is in control,” Hermela said. “I trust that He will ensure the day is filled with joy and gratitude as I transition to the next chapter of my journey.”

— Senia Overstreet

Dec. 15, 2023

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